Saturday, December 4, 2021

Guards prepare for battle

November 29, 2000
Senior guard Charlie Bell drives past Eastern Washington guard Jamal Jones during MSU —

As just the second player in MSU history to record a triple-double, senior Charlie Bell has established himself as one of the top guards in the country.

Tonight, Bell and the No. 3 Spartans will face their first big challenge of the season as No. 6 North Carolina comes to Breslin Student Events Center.

One of the highlights of the game is the matchup between Bell and North Carolina guard Joseph Forte.

“It’ll be a wild night,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “I think (Forte’s) one of the better all-around players you’re going to see come into this building this year. It could be a great matchup with two very good players.”

After three games, both players’ numbers are similarly impressive - 22.7 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game and 3.6 assists per game for Forte and 19.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 7.0 apg for Bell.

In Bell’s last game he tied his career high with 31 points on 12-of-13 shooting. He said he feels very confident about tonight’s game and looks forward to the matchup.

“I feel that I’m a great player and I just want to go out there and play as hard as I can and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “Hopefully my team can get the win.”

Izzo said Bell has continued to improve into an all-around player this season, but added defense is still his greatest tool.

“There are very few players that have been able to come into any college and play the kind of defense you need to play,” he said. “Charlie Bell was an exception to the rule. I think he can defend with anybody in the country.”

Izzo said he is worried about the possibility of Bell using all his energy on defense. He said Forte is an explosive offensive player and he doesn’t want Bell to burden himself with all the responsibility.

“He’s got some Charlie Bell-isms in him,” Izzo said of Forte. “He’s got very good explosiveness and quickness, he’s a slasher and a driver and he’s a spot-up three-point shooter. On defense he’s got very quick hands and gets his hands into everything.

“He is what he is, and that (was) a freshman All-American because of what he can do. He’s an exceptional player.”

Bell said he is well aware of Forte’s talents. He added he knows his teammates have his back if Forte gets past him.

“This is definitely going to be a big challenge for me,” he said. “It’s hard to just go out and try to stop a guy one-on-one. I’ll have to watch a lot of film and try to learn some of his tendencies.”

Forte said he and Bell are both competitive players, adding he expects a top-notch performance from Bell.

“He’s a very good player,” he said. “We’ll definitely be paying attention to Charlie Bell.”

Forte said the Tar Heels haven’t forgotten about their loss to the Spartans last year in Chapel Hill, N.C. He said North Carolina is aware of MSU’s second-longest home-court winning streak of 31 games, adding the Tar Heels would love to return the favor by snapping it.

“That’s just part of the excitement of playing Michigan State, at Michigan State,” he said. “Plus they’re the defending national champions.”

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